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The User and the Association: Neglecting Household Irrigation as Neglecting Household Well-Being in the Creation of Water Users’ Associations in the Republic of Tajikistan

Department of Geography, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA
Water 2019, 11(3), 505; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11030505
Received: 1 November 2018 / Revised: 11 February 2019 / Accepted: 5 March 2019 / Published: 11 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Governance: Retheorizing Politics)
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Abstract

Development initiatives often cite Water Users’ Associations (WUAs) as fundamental to water governance reform or the broad process of decentralizing responsibilities for management, supply and delivery. But the label of “WUA” indicates little about those who take on these duties as association members, suggesting all who use water in pursuit of life or livelihood are eligible to participate and benefit through collective action. Grounded in the belief that participatory projects can equitably empower and distribute resources, the enthusiastic introduction of WUAs continues despite critique that anticipated outcomes are overstated. Since borders opened to neoliberal development institutions in the 1990s, WUAs have been created throughout post-Soviet Central Asia. Yet, there has been limited reflection on how associations’ design and operation interact with physical or social structures to effect resource access across diverse groups. Drawing on fieldwork in Tajikistan, I demonstrate how WUAs reproduce exclusionary outcomes by requiring members to possess farmland in turn threatening rural food security. Held by a minority, farmland dedicated to commercial production stands in contrast to ubiquitous kitchen gardens, where crops sown for self-consumption form a buffer against hunger in the wake of labor migration and income inconsistency. Households’ inability to become members undermines their claim to water and voice in decision-making, ultimately constraining access to irrigation and a robust harvest. View Full-Text
Keywords: water management; irrigation; kitchen gardens; participatory development; Water Users’ Associations; Central Asia; Tajikistan water management; irrigation; kitchen gardens; participatory development; Water Users’ Associations; Central Asia; Tajikistan
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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MacDonald, K. The User and the Association: Neglecting Household Irrigation as Neglecting Household Well-Being in the Creation of Water Users’ Associations in the Republic of Tajikistan. Water 2019, 11, 505.

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